Inspired (predictably) by the Greens who have busy-bodism in their DNA, and backed by a petition which 157,000 New Zealanders signed and 4,990,000 did not, the government intends banning conversion therapy, that is the practise by some fringe Christian groups of endeavouring to talk someone with non-heterosexual impulses, into the straight and narrow.
One can easily imagine the distress some may feel when first awakening to their unorthodox leanings. Most of course take it in their stride, indeed nowadays they can be tiresomely celebratory about “coming out”.
Yet the irony of the proposed ban is that the biggest conversion therapy practitioner is the state. It provides numerous therapists for incarcerated sexual deviants and paedophiles. We constantly read of allegedly successful conversions in parole applications.
In the 1990s former ACT MP Deborah Coddington made an extensive study of paedophilia and concluded it was impossible to “convert” them from their yearning, no matter, as in many cases, she documented, they were eager to be rid of their craving and were ashamed of the harm they caused innocent children. Notwithstanding that appalling harm I feel sorry for them, their lives blighted by an urging seemingly in their DNA.
There’s another irony to this proposed ban, namely Christianity has been built on conversion, which is the reality of the church’s history over 2000 years.
It’s the sole function of missionaries whose sincerity I don’t question, to convert pagans in primitive societies to their superstition, or wrongdoers, or people who have fallen by the wayside and other vulnerable, desperate or gullible potential convertees. Personally, I find that hugely offensive, promoting an infantile mythology to troubled folk as a salve for their woes.
And that brings me to my principle concern, namely the implicit attack on individual freedom by the we-know-best state.
No-one is forced to subject themselves to conversion therapy but for whatever reason, some do and I accept the endeavour with its inevitable failure can be distressing for some in leaving them with a sense of overwhelming guilt.
But if we’re to allow the state to intervene in our liberties for our supposed greater good, then where to draw the line?
For example, the world’s most dangerous sport with an annual death count in the thousands, is mountaineering. To be consistent the government should ban it.
Most of us sometimes knowingly do things harmful to our well-being, whether over-imbibing, eating too much, slothful behaviour, or engage in the numerous risky sporting pursuits. Do we really want the busy-body state monitoring these things for our betterment?
A line must be drawn or unwittingly we will slip into a distasteful authoritarian society, forever justified as being for our greater benefit.